Press-Republican

FYI...

December 3, 2012

What's going on in the brain of a cheater?

America does love a good sex scandal, almost as much as the British do, and the Petraeus, um, affair has been an especially juicy one. It's been so complicated, in that reality-show kind of way, that we need charts depicting who's connected to whom.

As always happens when a powerful married man is revealed to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail, finding Freudian uses for cigars, or supporting his maid's child, there's been a lot of speculation about the psychology of honcho guys. What is it about the powerful?

This noodling is off-base on several counts. First, it neglects the fact that roughly one-quarter of married people — approximately equal numbers of men and women — report having had an extramarital affair. They aren't all powerful. It's true that the successful may indeed be more likely to commit adultery, but not for the reasons usually cited, such as their supposed sense of entitlement.

It also conflates social monogamy with sexual monogamy, assuming that these complicated sets of behaviors are one and the same. But Petraeus' experience shows this is not necessarily true. By all accounts, Petraeus highly values his relationship with his wife. Yet he was not sexually monogamous, and because he wasn't, he placed his social relationship with his wife, not to mention his job and reputation, at risk.

The difference between social and sexual monogamy is partly chemical, as was illustrated recently in a fascinating experiment. You may have missed it while being steeped in Jill Kelley news, but the Journal of Neuroscience released a study earlier this month about the effects of the neurochemical oxytocin on the behavior of monogamous males.

Oxytocin has gotten a lot of publicity over the past few years, not all of it entirely accurate. It's been called the "cuddle" hormone, a "love drug," even "the moral molecule." But it turns out that the effects of oxytocin depend on social context.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
FYI...
  • Why it's basically impossible to delete those naked selfies you text

    If you're selling an old Android smartphone on an online auction site, you could be giving away rather more than you intend to, according to a recent investigation by anti-malware company Avast.

    July 21, 2014

  • Why does the Vatican need a bank?

    The Vatican Bank's history reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages, but its worst -- and weirdest -- days may be behind it.

    July 18, 2014

  • Almost half of the world actually prefers instant coffee

    Americans' taste in coffee might be getting more high-end _with a growing fixation on perfectly roasted beans, pricier caffeinated concoctions, and artisan coffee brewers - but it turns out a surprisingly big part of the world is going in the opposite direction: toward instant coffee.

    July 17, 2014

  • ent_taylorswift.jpg There's less good music now — here's why

    Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can plants hear? Study finds that vibrations prompt some to boost their defenses

    They have no specialized structure to perceive sound as we do, but a new study has found that plants can discern the sound of predators through tiny vibrations of their leaves - and beef up their defenses in response.

    July 12, 2014

  • wheat1.jpg Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters

    The swelling ranks of Americans adopting gluten-free diets have given rise to another hot trend: people calling the whole thing a bunch of baloney.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140516-recalls_1357_88cb85dbc81b724b4ae9c83db4426fd8.jpg Auto recalls break single-year US record with six months to go

    With six months left in 2014, automakers have already recalled more vehicles in the United States than in any other year on record.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • The science of shyness

    Shy people have quite a bit to contend with - not least the word itself. It has a number of different meanings, none of which are flattering. To "shy away" from something implies avoidance; to "shy" can also mean to move suddenly in fright; to "be shy of" something can mean to come up short, or be insufficient.

    July 8, 2014

  • Wanna write a pop song? Here's a foolproof equation

    Pop songs (generally) stay in one key, are in 4/4 time, last between three and five minutes, are organized into chunks of four or eight bars, have a repeating chorus played two to four times, include the title sung at least three times, and feature short melodic fragments that repeat a lot to help everyone to remember them.

    July 7, 2014

  • Americans falling out of love with shopping malls

    Abandoned malls are hot: The Dead Malls Enthusiasts Facebook group boasts almost 14,000 members; a Google search of "dead malls" produces 5.7 million results; and the desolate interiors of these unused retailing meccas keep making cameos in thrillers and horror films.

    July 6, 2014